I had a rather tough time preparing for my first-semester college exams. Those weren't easy days. I had just lost my mother a year back and then had had to undergo a delicate back surgery a few months before I had taken admission in the new college. As the exam time dawned, I was stranded alone at home and concentrating on studies was difficult. My father and my brother did not expect me to do well. They knew I had had to go through a lot these past few months.
But despite the distractions and the mental wounds gnawing at me, despite the overpowering feeling of loneliness, I pulled myself up, poured my heart out in the exam preparations and scored exactly 75 percent. My confidence grew and I topped the college in the next semester, registering 91 %. It was one of the high-points of my life and the adulation I received in its wake was something I had never tasted before. It made me believe that focus and hard work towards a set goal does yield positive results. Even at this stage of my life, when hope feels lost, I regularly look back at that phase when I seek motivation.
Now, why am I telling you all this? Because reading Sunshine Town by debut author Maniissh Aroraa brought back some of those memories.
It’s a book aimed specifically at teenagers and college students who, more often than not, find themselves at a crossroads in their life, and grapple with several career decisions. If taken in the right spirit, the book can work well as a motivation vehicle.
Sunshine Town is centered on a teenager, Shlok, and the trials and tribulations of his career and love life. Hailing from a typical middle-class Indian family in the small town of Varanasi, Shlok wants to fulfill the dream of his father of becoming a successful doctor. While he is a pretty average student, he has a lot of resolve. But despite his repeated and meticulously planned attempts at success in his studies, Shlok fails and begins to doubt his worth, feels lost and loses hope.
|Picture courtesy "authormaniissharoraa.com"
In the meanwhile, he also meets Natasha, his next-door neighbour, and falls in love with her. She brings in some light and cheer in his life. But here, too, Shlok has to struggle to keep his relationship afloat.
Will Shlok be able to achieve the dream of his father? Or will he find a different path in his life? These are some of the questions that Sunshine Town addresses and takes us on the coming of age journey of this everyday teenager, while giving us some valuable life lessons along with it.
What I liked about the book:
The lead character
For any story to be interesting, the lead character has to be, at some level, relatable. Shlok is a likable teenager and behaves and feels in a way that most of us have in our lives.
He is a sincere lad and despite the adverse situations, keeps fighting hard to stay afloat and find meaning in his life.
Shlok is an average student. But through sheer hard work, careful planning and scheduling of his studies, and relentless dedication, he manages to pass through several difficult examinations. When not studying, Shlok devotes time to making himself fit and sprucing up the garden of his home.
He is a loyal son and a protagonist worth rooting for. In short, the youngsters of today can relate to Shlok and also take a lot of inspiration from him.
Shlok’s relationships with his parents
I always look for good and genuine bonds in a book. And while the story of Sunshine Town isn’t exactly about relationships, I found the bonds that Shlok shared with his mother and father very genuine and tender.
I believe that most Indian middle-class youth have similar relationships with their parents today. Shlok’s mother is the typical Indian mother; always caring, always supporting. Shlok’s father, while a serious figure, is his son’s guiding light and through his sage advice is always steering him in the right direction.
I could especially relate to Shlok’s relationship with his father – it reminded me of my own bonding with my dad.
Message of motivation
The inherent and underlying message of Sunshine Town is laudable. It would make the perfect read for teens appearing for their 12th exams and for those who are already in college but are at a crossroads on what path to take ahead.
Through Shlok’s journey - from the preparation for his class 12 exams to the eventual course he takes - we get to know about the various prospects young Indian students have in their career and how they should not lose hope even if they fail in the entrance examinations. It talks about finding a true goal for oneself and looking within. It tells us that despite fate not being kind towards your hard work, despite everything coming to a standstill, despite the roadblocks, there is always some light for everyone to latch on to; a lot can be achieved through unyielding toil and finding a proper guide in life.
These messages will work well for the Indian youth if taken in the right spirit.
What I felt could have been better:
While I liked Sunshine Town, I wish it was a tad longer; the story felt rushed at certain places.
I wanted to know more about the love story between Shlok and Natasha and the friendship the boy had with Yana. The latter, especially, was an interesting, happy-go-lucky character that helped Shlok through a difficult time. I would have loved to see some more time spent on the duo’s friendship.
The essence of the city of Varanasi should have been explored. I get that the focus was on the young boy and his ambition, but using the charm of the town of Varanasi could have added a different color to the story, in my view.
Also, in the prologue, we already get to know that Shlok is a successful professional before he dives back into his past. I felt that had that not been revealed, Shlok’s journey towards success in the story would have had that much more anticipation and interest as a reader.
The cover could have been better. It did not speak to me or attract me. And nor did I find it to be connected to the story. Maybe, a new cover in the reprint, where the protagonist is actually in action, might serve better.
Sunshine Town is an easy-to-read, breezy novel that should appeal to the Indian youth and their parents to an extent. It has a nice and different concept and is written in a simple language.
If you are an Indian teenager and bored of the endless barrage of campus romance novels out there, then you can try Sunshine Town. It will help you get some clarity and push in your career. It’s good to feel motivated every once in a while, after all.